BY ANNE CHECKOSKY
There just isn’t enough data for Palm Beach County leaders to decide if red-light cameras are a good or bad idea at this time, at least in the unincorporated areas of the county.
“The jury is still out,” Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw told the Town-Crier on Tuesday.
Some data show there are fewer crashes, while other data show there are more, he said. And still other data show a light timing problem, whereby the caution light might need to be extended or a countdown system needs to be implemented, he added.
“There’s just not enough data on a long-time period of study,” Bradshaw said.
There are currently 10 red-light cameras at the following eastbound and westbound intersections in unincorporated Palm Beach County: Palmetto Park Road and Powerline Road; Lantana Road at Jog Road; Atlantic Avenue and Jog Road; Hypoluxo Road at Military Trail; southbound Powerline Road at W. Palmetto Park Road; and westbound Lake Worth Road and S. Military Trail.
At last week’s Palm Beach County Commission meeting, County Engineer George Webb told commissioners that he is working on data that will review the locations, offering examples of what happens at intersections with cameras. That report is slated to go to commissioners sometime in July, but he doesn’t have it on hand yet.
“We’re also going to give you examples of intersections without traffic cameras in the same general areas. We’ll call them controls,” he said at the meeting.
There will also be before and after data at the intersections to show if there has been any change — good or bad — since the cameras were installed in 2010, Webb said.
County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor, who questioned Webb extensively at last week’s meeting, said the review is coming at a good time.
In July, the commissioners get to decide whether they want to renew the camera contract.
Taylor is concerned that drivers may be speeding up to avoid being caught on camera or stopping quicker, which could result in more rear-end crashes.
“I’ve got some reservations. Is it safe? The instinct is to speed up to avoid the red light,” she said.
Webb also said at last week’s meeting that the county isn’t making any money from the venture. In fact, some months it owes the vendor, American Traffic Solutions.
“We’re not making any money from it, so what’s the benefit?” Taylor asked.
But Bradshaw sees one ancillary benefit of the cameras. They’ve allowed sheriff’s deputies to spot vehicles involved in other crimes. Deputies have used the time stop device on the cameras to identify vehicles that were involved in other crimes. It hasn’t happened often, but it has happened a few times, Bradshaw said.
Last week, commissioners voted to preliminarily approve an ordinance that would change the method of paying fines for traffic violations caught on unmanned cameras from traffic court to a special magistrate.
The ordinance has to be in place prior to July 1 in order for state governments and municipalities to keep operating the program because of new legislation Gov. Rick Scott is expected to sign. Instead of requiring violators to go to traffic court, they’d have the option to go to a hearing officer similar to a code enforcement magistrate.